A seafaring abortion clinic?

It could happen.

A California doctor has a plan to launch a floating reproductive health clinic in the Gulf of Mexico, where care will be regulated by federal — not state — law.

The plan — currently in the fundraising stage — hopes to make surgical abortions, contraception and other reproductive health services available to Gulf Coast patients living in states restricting such services.

“Those in the most southern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas may be closer to the coast than to facilities in bordering states where abortion and reproductive health care are available,” reads the website for the ship, named PRROWESS — an acronym for Protecting Reproductive Rights of Women Endangered by State Statutes. It added that similar facilities “have been used by the military and relief organizations for years.”

The plan was first reported by San Francisco-based KCBS Radio, which said that the effort was being organized by a Bay Area Ob-Gyn, Meg Autry.

Autry, who is from the South, told the Chronicle that her inspiration traces back to a phenomenon popular along the Mississippi: riverboat casinos. The fact that different laws applied to gambling on land and on water led her to consult with lawyers about whether there may be a way to continue providing abortion access after the Supreme Court reversed the Roe vs. Wade decision that protected the procedure.

“We believe that patients should be able to make a choice,” she said.

The legal team of the PRROWESS now includes maritime lawyers and criminal attorneys, who have determined that a floating clinic in federal waters would be able to legally provide services that individual states may restrict, such as surgical abortions.


The PRROWESS would offer surgical abortions up to 14 weeks after conception, as well as contraception, vaccinations and on-site testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The ship would have a helicopter in addition to water shuttles so that patients could be quickly transported in case of emergencies.

Patients would be pre-screened and provided transportation arrangements onto the vessel, which would operate three weeks out of every month, to give it down time for maintenance and flexibility for weather conditions. Autry estimated that the clinic would be able to see 1,800 patients every six months, but said that number would increase if it acquired a larger ship.

Autry said the floating clinic would be an important resource for patients living near the Gulf who wanted a surgical abortion, since the proximity would make it easier for them to get to and require them to take less time off from work. It may also be less expensive than flying patients to states where abortion is legal.

I mean, it’s an interesting and creative idea, at a time when we need all the creative ideas we can get. It could work, but I think its main vulnerability, which was not at all addressed by the very basic website FAQ is that the only access to this ship will be from the shores of a state that is already hostile to abortion. Some part of this operation will have to physically exist in at least one of these states, and that will be the prime target. I guarantee you, the forced-birth radicals of the Texas Legislature will have a dozen or more bills aimed at this venture pre-filed before January. That’s not an admonition against doing this, it’s free advice to ensure those lawyers that PRROWESS says it is consulting had better do a lot of outside-the-box thinking, and be ready for all kinds of crazy stuff. Remember that the vigilante bounty-hunter law SB8 will definitely apply to anyone who helps transport a patient to that ship, and that will include harbor/marina/dock workers that touch any transport boats. They’re already threatening businesses with the 1925 law, with the promise of much more to come. Know your enemy really well, and don’t get caught flat-footed, that’s all I’m saying. NBC Bay Area has more.

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One Response to A seafaring abortion clinic?

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    ”….as well as contraception, vaccinations and on-site testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.”

    Let’s be honest, here. No one is going offshore to get vaccinated, tested for STD’s, or for a pap smear, cancer testing, counseling, etc. They are going offshore for the ONE thing they can’t get on land…..the abortion.

    Do people get on the day trip gambling ships because there are no bars or buffets on land? No, they go on the gambling ship to…..gamble.

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